Veterans dominate, but young guns star too in INDYCAR GP

Spencer Pigot starred today but didn't quite have result to show. Photo: IndyCar
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INDIANAPOLIS – Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway saw the established, north of 30-year-old veterans finish in the top five positions, but the young guns that finished in spots six to nine made a big impression behind them.

Will Power, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves are all at least 32 and have been part of the IndyCar fabric for at least a decade since making their debuts; in Castroneves’ case, two decades since his rookie season of 1998.

From sixth on back though were guys you hope will be here at least a decade further, if not longer.

Yes Graham Rahal debuted in 2007, but he’s still only 28 years old. Then with Max Chilton (26), Alexander Rossi (25) and Spencer Pigot (23) in the next three positions thereafter, it was a day for the young guns to showcase themselves too.

Rahal and Chilton both translated poor qualifying performances into great opportunities on Saturday. From 20th and 14th on the grid respectively, they started on Firestone’s black primary tires and carved their way through the field being on the softer, red alternate tires the rest of the day up to sixth and seventh. For both Rahal and Chilton, it was their best races of the season and in Chilton’s case, one he called the best of his IndyCar career.

For Pigot and Rossi, the opposite results happened compared to hopes – and weirdly, for a second consecutive INDYCAR Grand Prix they could afford to be disappointed with results not as good as was possible.

On the scoreboard Rossi started ninth and finished eighth, while Pigot started 16th and finished ninth, but top-fives for both drivers were possible.

Photo: IndyCar

 

Pigot, driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, was perhaps the star of the race as he vaulted from 16th up to sixth early on, notably after gaining six positions just on the first lap alone. But a stall after his first pit stop dropped him down the order to 15th, a big loss of both valuable track time and positions.

The result is still Pigot’s second top-10 this year – he was eighth at Long Beach.

But there’s been points left on the table, often through no fault of his own. A fiery brake disc explosion at St. Petersburg ruined a star drive there, and a spin at Barber from another strong run into the top-10 means there’s been some solid points left on the table.

“You never really know. Hopefully we could have ended up there as well,” Pigot told reporters post-race. “Something happened the first launch out of the stops. Today, we’re P9 knowing we could have been in the top five, not finishing a lucky P9, by getting a big break or a lucky yellow. I can’t say we’re totally 100 percent satisfied. But some stuff will go well later this year.

“A lot today depended on the tires. But we seemed to be really good in the second half of track, (Turns) 7 to 13, we used the overtake (button) to get runs. I could brake pretty deep into 1. This track produces great racing and lots of passing zones. We just have to see what happened with the stall.”

Photo: IndyCar

Rossi launched up to sixth after the start in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda but cited a bad call in pre-race downforce selection as hampering his ultimate potential.

“I think we chose the wrong downforce levels. The first stint really killed us. It was all about recovery from that point forward,” Rossi told NBC Sports post-race. “A top-five was possible. I’m pretty happy for Ryan (Hunter-Reay); it’s great for the team to be on the podium.

“But our pre-race decision setup wise hurt us on (Firestone) reds. We got the balance tuned in for the last stint. That was pretty strong.

“This year, we’ve had pace and we haven’t put a weekend together yet, which is frustrating. But we’re way ahead of where we are from last year. Indy was our strong suit last year, so we’ll look forward for that on Monday.”

Josef Newgarden, the six-year veteran who’s still only 26, was poised for his third top-five finish in five starts since joining Team Penske as well. But back-to-back pit lane speeding violations were traced to an electronics glitch and resigned him to 11th after running fourth or fifth most of the race.

Of the other sub-30-year-old young guns today, Conor Daly advanced from 15th into the top 10 early but struggled on pit stops and on blacks, Carlos Munoz never seemed a factor, Ed Jones got caught up Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan’s first lap contact and never recovered in what was his worst day in IndyCar thus far (finished 19th) and JR Hildebrand (still only 29) progressed from 21st to 14th but never seemed at ease with the car all weekend.

Last year’s Indianapolis 500 featured Rossi and Munoz, both then 24, and Newgarden, at 25, in the top three positions. And given the prodigious talent of the under-30 crowd in IndyCar now, it was nice to see these guys have success today – and additionally good to know there were even better results possible for Rossi, Pigot and Newgarden had the ball bounced differently.

Rising Star Racing-supported driver Pigot switches to Juncos Racing for the rest of the month, in that team’s Indianapolis 500 debut.

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:


Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change